_Composers – Rossini

Ballet Music From The Opera – How Much Tubey Magic Is Too Much?

Hot Stamper Pressings of Living Stereo Recordings Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

This Super Rare, Highly Collectible copy of LSC 2400 has vintage RCA Golden Age sound, for better and for worse. Even though the album was recorded by Decca, it’s got a healthy dose of Living Stereo Tubey Magic. There will never be a reissue of this record that even remotely captures the richness of the sound found here.  

And the hall is HUGE — so spacious and three-dimensional it’s almost shocking, especially if you’ve been playing the kind of dry, multi-miked modern recordings that the ’70s ushered in for London and RCA.

(EMI is super spacious but much of that space is weird, coming from out of phase back channels folded in to the stereo mix. And often so mid-hall and distant. Not our sound, sorry.)

Side One

Big and lively. The Tubey Magical colorations are a bit much for us, with too much tube smear on the strings and brass to earn more than a single plus. [Note that we almost never put records with a grade this low on the site these days.]

Side Two

Even bigger and more spacious, with some smear caused by the serious amounts of tube compression being used, of course, but the quiet passages are magical. [Which is precisely what heavy tube compression is designed to accomplish.]

The Victrola Reissue

We much prefer the sound of the Victrola reissue, VICS 1206, which came out in 1966.

As for the Victrola pressing, we’re guessing — how could we possibly know for sure? — that less tube compression was used in the mastering.

It’s still plenty tubey, but more to our taste for not being overly tubey.

Price Versus Quality

Speaking of cheap reissues, we are on record as being fans of a great many Budget Reissue Classical LPs for decades. My catalogs from the ’90s were full of reissues with exceptionally good sound.

Now that we do things differently, we’ve discovered some budget pressings that are so well-mastered they have the potential — accent on the word potential — to win shootouts.

Vintage Vinyl

Plenty of the records we audition suffer from Bad Tube Mastering, a quality we have no trouble recognizing and criticize at length all over this very blog.

In that respect we have little in common with the True Believers who seem to want to defend analog regardless of its quality.

We don’t hesitate to criticize new records that have bad sound and old records that have bad sound. Bad sound is bad sound no matter when the record was pressed.

Vintage classical records with bad sound can be found here.

Modern records of all kinds with bad sound can be found here.

Too Many Tubes?

With too many tubes in the mastering chain you end up with mud pies, and nobody, outside of this guy and the customers who buy his wares, wants those.

But is it just a matter of having too many tubes in the mastering chain?

If it is, then how to explain the awful sound of this Analogue Productions reissue, which was mastered using no tubes whatsoever?

Or this one?

Did Kevin Gray screw up, or does Chad just like murky sounding records?

Hey, why not crowdsource the answer? Please go to your favorite audiophile forum and start a thread with that question. Once you have done so, please send a link to: tom@better-records.com

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Ballet Music From The Opera – Skip the Classic Records Pressing

Hot Stamper Living Stereo Orchestral Titles Available Now

Hot Stamper Pressings of Orchestral Spectaculars Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Classical LP debunked.

Classic Records ruined this album, as anyone who has played some of their classical reissues should have expected. Their version is dramatically more aggressive, shrill and harsh than the Shaded Dogs we’ve played, with almost none of the sweetness, richness and ambience that the best RCA pressings have in such abundance.

In fact their pressing is just plain awful, like most of the classical recordings they remastered, and should be avoided at any price. 

Apparently, most audiophiles (including audiophile record reviewers) have never heard a top quality classical recording. If they had, Classic Records would have gone out of business immediately after producing their first three Living Stereo titles, all of which were dreadful and labeled as such by us way back in 1994. I’m not sure why the rest of the audiophile community was so easily fooled, but I can say that we weren’t, at least when it came to their classical releases. 

We admit to having made plenty of mistaken judgments about their jazz and rock, and we have the We Was Wrong entries to prove it.

The last review we wrote for the remastered Scheherazade, which fittingly ended up in our Hall of Shame, with an equally fitting sonic grade of F.

TAS Superdisc List to this day? Of course it is!

With every improvement we’ve made to our system over the years, their records have managed to sound progressively worse. (This is pretty much true for all Heavy Vinyl pressings, another good reason for our decision to stop buying them in 2007.) That ought to tell you something.

Better audio stops hiding and starts revealing the shortcomings of bad records. At the same time, and much more importantly, better audio reveals more and more of the strengths and beauty of good records.

Which of course begs the question of what actually is a good record — what it is that makes one record good and another bad — but luckily for you dear reader, you are actually on a site that has much to say about those very issues.

There are scores of commentaries on the site about the huge improvements in audio available to the discerning (and well-healed) audiophile. It’s the reason Hot Stampers can and do sound dramatically better than their Heavy Vinyl or Audiophile counterparts: because your stereo is good enough to show you the difference.

With an Old School Audio System you will continue to be fooled by bad records, just as I and all my audio buds were fooled twenty and thirty years ago. Audio has improved immensely in that time. If you’re still playing Heavy Vinyl and Audiophile pressings, there’s a world of sound you’re missing. We would love to help you find it.

One amazing sounding Orchestral Hot Stamper pressing might just be what it takes to get the ball rolling.

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Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque / Fiedler

More Music Conducted by Arthur Fiedler

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • Outstanding sound throughout this vintage RCA Victrola stereo pressing of these delightful orchestral pieces
  • Unlike the original Shaded Dog pressings, this Victrola is in correct polarity on both sides
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – this recording, when mastered and pressed right, as is the case here, is the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • When we talk about space and transparency, we’re talking about recordings that sound like this one
  • A favorite title with audiophiles – it’s full of lovely orchestral colors and, as usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops know how to bring them out
  • More of the music of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1863)
  • More of the music of Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)

Fiedler has a way with the Ibert piece here like nobody’s business; the performance is definitive, although the sound is not as good as La Boutique Fantasque, which is nothing short of amazing. The Kay piece sounds excellent here and is beautifully performed. Fiedler is hard to beat on music like this.

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The Royal Ballet – Gala Performances – on Classic Records

More Reviews of Classic Records Classical Titles

More Heavy Vinyl Commentaries 

Sonic Grade: C or Better 

Probably a fairly good Classic Records album. When I played this record years ago, I thought it was one of the better Classic RCA titles. You can be sure it won’t sound like the original — [almost] no Classic record does — but it might be pretty good all things considered. One thing to consider is that the original in clean condition sells for many thousands of dollars!

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Rossini-Respighi / Ballet For Band / Fennell

More of the music of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1863)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

  • This original Mercury Stereo LP of the Eastman Wind Ensemble’s performance of these wonderful orchestral compositions debuts on the site with INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than all of what we played
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound

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Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque (RCA Shaded Dog) / Fiedler

More Music Conducted by Arthur Fiedler

More Living Stereo Recordings

  • INSANELY GOOD Living Stereo sound can be heard from beginning to end on this Shaded Dog pressing
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – this phenomenally good recording when mastered and pressed right is the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • It’s hard to find a better record with more Tubey Magical hear-all-the-way-to-the-back-of-the-hall sound than this – when we talk about space and transparency, we’re talking about recordings that sound like this one
  • A favorite title with audiophiles – it’s full of lovely orchestral colors and, as usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops know how to bring them all out
  • Side one has its polarity inverted, something we’ve known about for twenty years – the sound is dark and smeary without the polarity corrected, so those of you who cannot change their polarity should pass on this title
  • More of the music of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1863)
  • More of the music of Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)

Fiedler is hard to beat on music like this.

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Verdi / Rossini / Overtures and Intermezzos – Solti

More Classical and Orchestral Music

More Living Stereos

  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for this classic Decca engineered “Living Stereo” Victrola from 1965 – both sides of this pressing earned our top grade of A+++
  • Listen to how rich the cellos sound — this is Tubey Magical Analog and its most luscious and enchanting.
  • You could easily play one hundred classical albums and not hear this kind of sound!
  • If you have the real Living Stereo pressing (with the cool die-cut cover), let us send you this pressing to compare — who knows, you might like it even better than your Shaded Dog
  • Classic Records did this title back in the ’90s, and it was one of the worst of their sorry releases

This 1959 Decca recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl.

On this copy you will find As Good As It Gets sound. It’s so BIG and RICH you will have a hard time believing that it’s a budget reissue from 1965, but that’s precisely what it is.

Ah but it’s a reissue from back in the day when they knew how to cut a record properly, regardless of its retail price.

The rich, textured, rosin-on-the-bow lower strings on this record are to die for. Find me a modern record that sounds like this and I will eat it.

And by “modern record” we hasten to include both modern recordings and modern remasterings of older recordings. NO ONE alive today can make a record that sound even remotely as good as this. To call it a lost art is to understand something that few vinyl-loving audiophiles appear to have grasped since the advent of the Modern Reissue, which is simply this: they can’t begin to compete.

After twenty years of trying and literally hundreds of failed examples the engineers of today have yet to make a record that sounds as powerful and life-like as this London from almost fifty years ago.

Fortunately for the both of us we are not trying to make a record that sounds the way this one does. We’re just trying to find one, and folks, we found the hell out of this one. (more…)

Rossini / Overtures / Maag – The Best on Record

More of the music of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

More of Our Favorite Performances with Top Quality Sound

  • With superb sound from start to finish, the orchestral power on display here is positively breathtaking
  • Wilkie’s Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s Rossini Overtures is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”
  • More of our Favorite Performances with Top Quality sound

Maag breathes life into these works as only he can and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

Everyone needs a good Rossini Overtures – the music is exciting and fun, not to mention Demonstration Quality on a pressing such as this. The combination of sound and performance on the best of the Maag-led Londons could not be equaled.

Gamba on London was much too sleepy for our tastes, and the famous Reiner on RCA left a lot to be desired. It’s mid-hall perspective and dynamic compression took all the fun out of this music.

After hearing the killer Maag pressings, nothing else would do!

Note that the orchestra is none other than the Paris Conservatoire, whose playing of the famously demanding Stravinsky Rite of Spring, under Monteux (LSC 2085), is absolutely stunning as well. (more…)

Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque – Reversed Polarity Copy

More of the music of Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1863)

More of the music of Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)

About fifteen years ago we discovered that side one of this album has Reversed Polarity.

This is a WONDERFUL sounding, very quiet original Shaded Dog pressing of one of the rarest Living Stereo titles. Dropping the needle on side one was a shock — the sound was terrible: thin, shrill and practically unlistenable. Since I know this to be an exceptionally good sounding record, there was only one possibility: reverse absolute phase. Sure enough, the magic of Living Stereo reappeared. If you can’t reverse your polarity, this is not the record for you! 

Are they all that way? I have no way of knowing. I run across a clean quiet copy like this once every ten years or so. If any of you out there own this record and yours is not reversed phase let me know what your stamper numbers are, I’d be very interested.

This has always been a favorite title with audiophiles. It’s full of lovely orchestral colors, much like The Nutcracker. As usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops are accorded superb sound.

Rossini et al. / William Tell and other Overtures – Bernstein – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

Our Favorite Performance of Rossini’s Overtures – Maag and The PCO

This is a SUPERB SOUNDING Columbia Masterworks LP of favorite overtures, energetically conducted by Leonard Bernstein. It’s exceedingly rare to find a Columbia pressing with sound like this: there’s tons of tubey magic; the string tone is surprisingly good; there’s huge amounts of depth and the overall presentation is tonally rich, sweet, and correct in the best golden age tradition.

There’s a bit of compression in the loudest passages, especially on side two. But this is a small price to pay for an otherwise wonderful sounding, beautifully mastered and pressed Columbia 360 Label LP.

Carl Stern plays the cello solo on the piece by Suppe and the sound is to die for, every bit as good as the famous Mercurys and RCAs we know so well. Truth be told, the quieter passages on this record are the most wonderful. The sense of real musicians playing in space is palpable, especially on side one.

The other pieces on this record are Zampa Overture, Mignon Overture, Raymond Overture and Poet and Peasant Overture.